Software Tools Quote

"Finally, it is a pleasure to acknowledge our debt to the Unix operating system, developed at Bell Labs by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie. We wrote the text, tested the programs, and typeset the manuscript, all within Unix. Many of the tools we describe are based on Unix models. Most important, the ideas and philosophy are based on our experience as Unix users. Of all the operating systems we have used, Unix is the only one that has been a positive help in getting a job done instead of an obstacle to be overcome. The world-wide acceptance of Unix indicates that we are not the only ones who feel this way."
"Software Tools in Pascal", 1981, by Brian W. Kernighan, P.J. Plauger

As every neckbearded n-gate reader will now rush to well-actually at me, BWK's experience writing this book led to Why Pascal Is Not My Favorite Programming Language, but note this rant is about "standard" ANSI Pascal, not the somewhat improved P-Code Pascal of the '70s or the free-wheeling super-powered Turbo Pascal of the early '80s, and nothing like modern FreePascal. Standard Pascal was a deliberately simplified pedagogical language, not a systems programming language, which the later ones are.

Anyway, the book's interesting as a problem-solving exercise, but the Unix part amused me. And no, Linux is Not Unix. Buy a Mac or install BSD if you want UNIX®.

Don't Be a Dick

So, Wil Wheaton ( previously "I Hate Twitter" ) was just chased off the Fediverse (he still has an account on a siloed non-federating instance, which isn't really useful to anyone else). His last statement's pretty clear, so I put that down below.

"Please do your very best to be kind to each other. The world is a terrible place right now, and that's largely because it is what we make it."

I know some of the people doing the harassing. There's no point in even arguing with them: They've decided he's in Two Minutes Hate, perhaps because he has a friend whom they don't like, and won't consider "Don't be a Dick", or having empathy, tolerance, or self-awareness that some of them aren't such great friends to have, for one hot second.

While Gargron has condemned harassment, it doesn't fix the problem, since there are entire instances where 4chan-like behavior is accepted; all you can do is block accounts or those entire instances, and it still poisons the Federated timeline for a while.

I'm not sure any level of moderation fixes this shit.

This is why I highly recommend owning your own blog, and broadcasting that out to other services where people can read it; even better, read this and many other blogs in your RSS aggregator or RSS reader ( currently free! ) of choice. It's OK to put some ephemeral chat on other services, but remember those are owned by other people, and are easily attacked by angry, stupid mobs. If a stupid mob shows up here, I don't approve their comments and it's done. It's the Castle Doctrine of online posting.

Wil Wheaton @wilw@mastodon.cloud August 29, 2018, 3:02 PM https://mastodon.cloud/@wilw/100635779449174251 (will be a dead link soon)
I have been notified by an Admin here that they are getting 60 reports a day about my account. As far as I can tell, I'm not breaking any rules, and I've done my best to be a good person here. But this admin is going to suspend my account.

It's the Admin's instance, so I fully support their choice to eliminate a source of frustration, but something to consider: a person who is doing nothing wrong can be run off one instance by a mob from another instance. That seems ... not cool. 1/x

But it's been made very, very clear to me that I am not welcome in the Fediverse, and I hear you. I hoped to find an alternative to the birdsite where I could find the same fun community that existed over there in the beginning, and it's clear to me that I won't be finding that. Before I leave, I want to just make something very clear, because I've spent most of my life being yelled at by people who don't know me at all, and I want the record to be clear. 2/x

During GamerGate, I was dogpiled and mobbed and brigaded and attacked by thousands of accounts. I started using a blocklist that was supposed to help stop that. I did not know that the blocklist I signed up for also had a lot of trans women on it. When I found out, I did everything I could to remove those women from the list I shared. When there were still innocents on the list, I stopped sharing the list entirely. Despite this, a mob has decided that I'm anti-trans. 3/x

This lie that I am anti-trans, or anti-LGBQ, is deeply hurtful to me (I know it's nothing like the pain LGBTQ people deal with every day, as they simply try to exist in a world that treats them so badly, but it is still hurtful in its own way to me). I just want to make it extremely clear: that is a lie, and the people spreading it are misinformed.

So I'm leaving the Fediverse, which has treated me with more cruelty, vitriol, hatred, and contempt than than anyone on the birdsite ever did. 4/x

I know that I'm well-off, well-known, and as a CIS white hetro dude in America, I live life on the lowest difficulty setting. I know that I have very little to complain about.

But I still have feelings, and I really do care about the world and the people in it. What I see is a lot of anger and cruelty directed at the IDEA of me, from people who I just hope don't realize that it really does hurt me, in my heart, to be accused of being someone I am not, and to be the target of a hateful mob. 5/x

Anyway, take your victory lap and collect your prizes. You've made it clear that I'm not welcome here, and even though I disagree with the action this Admin is taking (banning me when I didn't break any rules doesn't seem right), I respect and support the Admin's decision to run their instance the way they see fit.

Please do your very best to be kind to each other. The world is a terrible place right now, and that's largely because it is what we make it.

Bye.

6/end

Talking on the Internet

Or—more likely—a wide variety of nasty computer viruses. If Hiro reaches out and takes the hypercard, then the data it represents will be transferred from this guy’s system into Hiro’s computer. Hiro, naturally, wouldn’t touch it under any circumstances, any more than you would take a free syringe from a stranger in Times Square and jab it into your neck.
And it doesn’t make sense anyway. “That’s a hypercard. I thought you said Snow Crash was a drug,” Hiro says, now totally nonplussed.
“It is,” the guy says. “Try it.”
“Does it fuck up your brain?” Hiro says. “Or your computer?”
“Both. Neither. What’s the difference?”
Hiro finally realizes that he has just wasted sixty seconds of his life having a meaningless conversation with a paranoid schizophrenic. He turns around and goes into The Black Sun.
—Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash, ch. 5

Not always, but sometimes.

"I Really Hate Twitter"

"I really hate Twitter. It was once promising, and I feel like it still does some good, but on balance, it enables harassment and evil and cruelty at least as much if not more than it helps things change for the better. I feel like it has broken our society, and wrecked our social contract. I feel like the board at Twitter, and its CEO, Jack Dorsey, know this, but they’re too busy profiting from their inaction to care. May history judge them all the way they deserve."
Wil Wheaton

Yeah. Long dull biographical anecdote aside, his point about Twitter is dead on. I've "only" got a couple thousand people I like there, not Wil's millions, but it bugs me that anyone stays.

I feel like they're stuck in some Soviet gulag and I'm betraying them by not staying in the gulag with them, but that's fucking insane. They should be happy I got out, and I should be setting up fake passports and apartments in the Free World for them.

If you need help getting out, read my Post-Facebook Microblogging post, and email me if you need more help.

Do Something Weird

"This is the kind of possibility that the pointy-haired boss doesn't even want to think about. And so most of them don't. Because, you know, when it comes down to it, the pointy-haired boss doesn't mind if his company gets their ass kicked, so long as no one can prove it's his fault. The safest plan for him personally is to stick close to the center of the herd.

Within large organizations, the phrase used to describe this approach is "industry best practice." Its purpose is to shield the pointy-haired boss from responsibility: if he chooses something that is "industry best practice," and the company loses, he can't be blamed. He didn't choose, the industry did.

I believe this term was originally used to describe accounting methods and so on. What it means, roughly, is don't do anything weird. And in accounting that's probably a good idea. The terms "cutting-edge" and "accounting" do not sound good together. But when you import this criterion into decisions about technology, you start to get the wrong answers.

Technology often should be cutting-edge. In programming languages, as Erann Gat has pointed out, what "industry best practice" actually gets you is not the best, but merely the average. When a decision causes you to develop software at a fraction of the rate of more aggressive competitors, "best practice" is a misnomer."
—Paul Graham, Revenge of the Nerds

Halloween

"I love Halloween, the one time of year when everyone wears a mask, not just me. People think it's fun to pretend you're a monster; Me, I spend my life pretending I'm not. Brother, friend, boyfriend, all part of my costume collection. Some people might call me a fraud, I prefer to think of myself as a master of disguise."

—Dexter, S1E4 "Let's Give the Boy a Hand"

Not So Easy to Get a Program Right

"By June 1949 people had begun to realize that it was not so easy to get a program right as had at one time appeared. I well remember when this realization first came on me with full force. The EDSAC was on the top floor of the building and the tape-punching and editing equipment one floor below on a gallery that ran around the room in which the differential analyser was installed. I was trying to get working my first non-trivial program, which was one for the numerical integration of Airy's differential equation. It was on one of my journeys between the EDSAC room and the punching equipment that hesitating at the angles of stairs the realization came over me with full force that a good part of the remainder of my life was going to be spent in finding errors in my own programs."

-Maurice Wilkes, Memoirs

Open Plan

Apple Park's Open Work Spaces

I've had the misfortune to work in "war rooms" (no fighting allowed!) and "open plans" before, and for some reason I always think of this, for a moment before the noise distracts me:

Some things about living still weren't quite right, though. April for
instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in
that clammy month that the H-G [Handicapper-General's] men took George and Hazel Bergeron's fourteen-
year-old son, Harrison, away.

It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn't think about it very
hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn't
think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his
intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his
ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a
government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would
send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair
advantage of their brains.

George and Hazel were watching television. There were tears on Hazel's
cheeks, but she'd forgotten for the moment what they were about.
On the television screen were ballerinas.

A buzzer sounded in George's head. His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits
from a burglar alarm.

—Kurt Vonnegut, "Harrison Bergeron" (1961)